We have no idea A guide to the unknown universe

Jorge Cham

Book - 2017

Humanity's understanding of the physical world is full of gaps. Not tiny little gaps you can safely ignore--there are huge yawning voids in our basic notions of how the world works. Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson team up to explore everything we don't know about the universe, and while introducing the biggest mysteries in physics, they also helpfully demystify many complicated things we do know. And although the universe is full of weird things that don't make any sense, Cham and Whiteson make a compelling case that the questions we can't answer are as interesting as the ones we can, and they invite us to see the universe as a possibly boundless expanse of uncharted territory that's still ours to explore. --

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2nd Floor 523.1/Cham Checked In
New York : Riverhead Books 2017.
Main Author
Jorge Cham (author)
Other Authors
Daniel Whiteson (author)
Physical Description
354 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [343]-346) and index.
  • Introduction
  • 1. What Is the Universe Made Of?
  • 2. What Is Dark Matter?
  • 3. What Is Dark Energy?
  • 4. What Is the Most Basic Element of Matter?
  • 5. The Mysteries of Mass
  • 6. Why Is Gravity So Different from the Other Forces?
  • 7. What Is Space?
  • 8. What Is Time?
  • 9. How Many Dimensions Are There?
  • 10. Can We Travel Faster Than Light?
  • 11. Who Is Shooting Superfast Particles at the Earth?
  • 12. Why Are We Made of Matter, Not Antimatter?
  • 14. What Happened During the Big Bang?
  • 15. How BIG Is the Universe?
  • 16. Is There a Theory of Everything?
  • 17. Are We Alone in the Universe?
  • A Conclusion of Sorts
  • Acknowledgments
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

How many dimensions are there? What happened during the big bang? What is dark energy? Who is shooting superfast particles at the earth? These are simple questions with complicated answers that we don't yet understand. But Whiteson, a particle physicist, and Cham, a Ph.D. in robotics and creator of the webcomic PHD Comics, team up to explore them anyway, emphasizing how little we know not to demoralize readers, but to excite them about the incredible amount of uncharted territory left to explore. The authors' enthusiasm for the subject matter is evident, as is their skill at distilling such heavy matter to a palatable level of comprehension. Helping this are Cham's cheeky and pun-riddled illustrations sprinkled liberally throughout the book. (An example: in the section about how to measure gravity, there's a drawing of a personal scale with the caption Everyone's favorite gravitometer.) Its irreverent sensibility, clearheaded writing, and optimistic outlook make this a great read for reluctant science readers and even for young adults interested in the big ideas on the scientific horizon.--Comello, Chad Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Cham, creator of PHD Comics, and Whiteson, professor of experimental particle physics at UC-Irvine, take their YouTube talent to the page for this lucid and irreverent survey of the many unsolved mysteries of our universe. The authors set a brisk pace as they charge fearlessly across the shadowy terrain of modern physics and cosmology, covering gravity and fundamental particles as well as the Big Bang and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. An opening section on dark matter and dark energy explores the 95% of the universe that seems impervious to human curiosity. Continuing their journey, they ask such questions as: What are cosmic rays? Where's our universe's antimatter? Why does time only move forward? And just how big is the universe anyway? The book's cast includes hamsters, evil twins, Doctor Who, and others. Black holes, the Higgs boson, and theories of everything rub elbows with Pi charts, pop culture, and Lego philosophy. Cham and Whiteson mesh comics, lighthearted infographics, and lively explanations to painlessly introduce curious readers to complex concepts in easily digestible chapters. This fun guide is just the ticket for science fans of any age. Agent: Seth Fishman, Gernert Company. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

The title of this basic science overview comes from the idea that our knowledge of the particles that make up the stars, planets, and galaxies represent only five percent of what comprises the universe; when it comes to the remaining 95 percent, as one of the book's graphics puts it, "We have no idea." Cham, creator of the newspaper and webcomic strip Piled Higher and Deeper and the website PHD TV, which features animation and videos that explain complex scientific topics, and his frequent PHD TV collaborator Whiteson (experimental particle physics, Univ. of California, Irvine) cover dark matter, dark energy, mass, gravity, space, time, dimensions, the big bang, the possibility of a theory of everything, and extraterrestrial life. This lighthearted offering, peppered with funny illustrations, effectively illuminates difficult concepts and will appeal to fans of Cham's work and newcomers alike. However, some readers may not appreciate the tongue-in-cheek attitude and silly footnotes. Verdict Highly recommended for science shelves and young adult collections.-Teresa R. Faust, Coll. of Central Florida, Ocala © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Accompanied by funny cartoons, this title takes readers on a mind-expanding, exhilarating trip through everything scientists don't know about the universe, which turns out to be quite a lot. Cham and Whiteson start with the humbling fact that 27 percent of the universe is made up of dark matter-which we can't see, interact with, or measure. A staggering 68 percent of the universe is dark energy, which the authors point out is just a convenient and possibly misleading term for something we know even less about. The rest of the book explores the remaining five percent, detailing our incomplete understanding of everything from mass to space-time to gravity and more. Fortunately, Cham and Whiteson present a wealth of information about what physicists do know, and their excitement about scientific advancement and their optimism about future discoveries are infectious. Their stabs at levity are a bit grating (although they're aware how lame their jokes are) and unnecessary, since their prose is lucid, even when the concepts become almost impossible to grasp. VERDICT An enjoyable and thought-provoking read for older teens with at least a cursory understanding of physics.-Mark Flowers, Springstowne Library, Vallejo, CA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

How did we end up in "a nonbland universe full of structure" instead of somewhere else? No one can yet say: that's the organizing principle of this lively, agnostic book on physics and its discontents.Cham, an online cartoonist with a doctorate in robotics, and Whiteson (Experimental Particle Physics/Univ. of California, Irvine), who conducts research at the Large Hadron Collider, combine forces to explore all the things that we cannot say with any confidence about the universe in which we live, an engaging conceit for a book that wears its considerable learning lightly. One question is what the universe is made of, most of it what physicists call "dark matter" or "dark energy"in fact, only about 5 percent of it is anything we can explain with our current knowledge. "Most of the universe is made of something else": quite a daunting concept, and by the time Cham and Whiteson get around to explaining what happens, quantum mechanistically speaking, when a particle meets its antiparticle, it's mind-bogglingly complex. That's where the cartoons come in. Though the authors are occasionally sillythe notion of filling space with cilantro being one such momentthe overarching spirit is one of helpfulness. After reading this book, general readers without much background in physics will be able to speak knowledgeably about, for example, how quarks relate to leptons. But with a proviso, bearing in mind the book's premise: yes, with up and down quarks we can make neutrons and protons, but what do the other nine of the dozen known particles do? Write the authors, "why are they there? We have no idea." Indeed, we do not, but Cham and Whiteson brightly foresee a time in which we have the answers and "today's philosophy questions are tomorrow's precision science experiments." An entertaining and educational review for anyone seeking to brush up on or build his or her knowledgeor, perhaps better, lack of knowledge. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.